Pavneet Aulakh | Daniel Clinton | Jacob Culbertson | Paola Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco | Leah Feldman | Anna Finn | Kristen Galvin | Anastasia Yumeko Hill | Sarah Klotz | Yannig Luthra | Maiya Murphy | Mark Norris | Charles Nick Saenz | Jeffrey Schonberg | Matthew Suazo | Nicholas Welcome | Jeremiah Wishon | Damon Young
My project begins by rethinking the relationship between the sciences and the humanities in the early seventeenth century. While recent scholarship has increasingly acknowledged an overlap between the two fields, we largely continue to conceive of them as manifesting two discreet cultures with distinct allegiances and forms of knowledge making. Reading Francis Bacon’s treatises on natural philosophy alongside the poetry and drama of Fulke Greville, Ben Jonson, John Donne, and George Herbert, I examine how all these writers developed sensuous, often visual and emblematic, representational strategies to surmount what Bacon identified as the epistemological limitations of language. My dissertation is largely a generational study, focusing on a group of writers who, with the exception of Donne, were loosely affiliated with Bacon’s project as advocates and translators. Nonetheless, it also seeks to position these writers within a larger intellectual history. Not only do their efforts anticipate a mid seventeenth-century shift towards image-based learning in English pedagogy, but they also inform the emphasis late seventeenth-century philosophers (Locke and Hobbes, for instance) would place on the epistemological centrality of vision.
How does a theory of photography offer a useful framework for analyzing the disruptive effects of mass culture upon the aesthetic framework of literary texts? Daniel Clinton argues that the fascination with optical devices in the writing of antebellum American authors provides a model for their reconceptualization of literary artifice. By examining the duel influence of Romantic aesthetic theory and technical media on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville, Mr. Clinton claims that literary allusions to visual media offer not only a reflection of emerging cultural dynamics, but also a deliberate theorization of literary effect as both a type of mechanism and a type of consciousness.
Culbertson’s dissertation is an ethnography of Maori architecture, an emerging professional field in New Zealand that draws on traditional Maori building practices and purportedly-universal architectural practices. Over the past two decades Maori architecture has become a crucial resource for reviving Maori traditions while literally rebuilding Maori communities. His research asks how Maori architecture travels; that is, how Maori architects select, combine and translate into each other diverse Maori and non-Maori architectural influences to comprise their unique field of design and building practices (not just an aesthetic) and differentiate it from other architectures.
Culbertson argues that these encounters and translations are both empirically contingent on particular design projects and theoretically generative, as they produce incommensurable (and often mutually-incomprehensible) differences while bringing together practices that push open the dichotomy between modern and non-modern ways of knowing. Over the past few years Culbertson has split his time between daily work with a collective of Maori woodcarvers in the Bay of Plenty region and interviewing professional architects and urban planners, mostly based in Auckland. Wandering through urban and rural landscapes with camera and notebook is also an important part of his research method, as is digging in on “traditional” construction projects when the opportunities arise.
My dissertation is intended to present an innovative cognitive approach to material culture and the use of virtual reproduction in research, education, and communication in archaeology. This research aims to investigate the potential use of virtual copies of artifacts for knowledge production and acquisition in archaeology. Although scholars recognize the value of digital models for enhancing artifact studies in schools and universities and re-contextualizing objects exhibited in museums, some researchers suggest that these models lack information that is only available through real-world human-object interaction. This point opens up a question about the real value of digital object representations in both research and education. Studies demonstrate, in fact, that we do think with objects and that interaction with things is critical when trying to make sense of their use and function. The present study, done in collaboration with the program of Cognitive and Information Science at the University of California, Merced, intends to investigate how knowledge production and acquisition work through different media: visual examination, physical interaction, and three-dimensional virtual and material replica interaction.
This is an innovative interdisciplinary project that can promote the advancement of research and education beyond the frontiers of current knowledge. The results of this research can be applied to a number of fields, including archaeology, museum display, and modern heritage management. This project will also help to clarify the growing area of human-object interaction studies.
This project focuses on literature of Russia and the Russian empire, particularly Muslim writers of the Caucasus. It also investigates the discourses of secularism and modernity in shaping intersecting narratives of identity. More broadly, her work explores the theoretical confluence of semiotics, postcolonial theory and Orientalism.
As a Fulbright scholar she conducted extensive research in the Caucasus on Azerbaijani literature. She is co-translating a forthcoming compilation of nineteenth and twentieth century Azeri plays. Her future research interests include Russophone literature and satirical journals and theatre in Russia and the Caucasus from 1850-1930.
My dissertation investigates the aesthetic effects of two related forms of standardization in the 19th century: the rise of brand culture and the standardization of time to Greenwich Mean Time. I argue that the simultaneous innovation of the dramatic monologue as a lyric form reflects the alienating and paradoxically fragmenting effects of both modes of cultural standardization. The result is a dramatization of the doubled modes of temporality and identity already inherent in the lyric as a simultaneously temporally transcendent, impersonal art object and a historically bound utterance with a particular speaker. The recognition of the doubleness of “lyric time” and the “lyric I” reflects the shift in consciousness initiated by time standardization and by the consolidation of brand identities. My project will trace the aesthetic resonances of these two analogous cultural forces in the work of Algernon Charles Swinburne, Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Butler Yeats, T.S. Eliot and Stevie Smith. Thus, the project not only resituates the “lyric” as a simultaneously historical and ideal form but also reads the technical innovations this realization incites across the Victorian-Modernist period divide.
My dissertation argues that Downtown scenes—across broadcast, nightlife, and academic spaces—are crucial to the shift between 1970s cultural pluralism and constructions of 1980s postmodernism. This project examines three different case studies as representative of Downtown scenes: Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party, Club 57, and The Nova Convention. TV Party, intermittently cablecast from 1978-1982, depicted a chaotic collective of subcultures by promoting variety-style musical performance on one of the first live public access programs in Manhattan. Club 57, with its energetic queer performances, theme parties, art exhibitions, and film screenings, created an “anything goes” environment that provided a vital bridge between art school and a more professionalized career. An avant-garde “who’s who” of Downtown cultural history, The Nova Convention was a mega-conference that celebrated the work of William S. Burroughs to popularize critical theory in the United States. These three vibrant scenes supported production, collaboration, networking, and publicity for underground cultures and emerging artists. Downtown scenes shared progressive politics, taste cultures, and queer world-making desires to generate and rewrite cultural systems of meaning. In contrast to existing single-medium histories of this period, this project advances party scenes as particularly productive interdisciplinary configurations, with profound cultural and intellectual impact.
My dissertation examines the materials, technologies, and environments intentionally used to alter consciousness as media objects, specifically in terms of how they incite and mediate altered states-as-perceptual events. As ‘case studies,’ I look at wilderness landscapes, LSD, and sensory deprivation tanks in relation to the media images they, in part, determine and produce – ‘images’ understood here as the subjective experience of embodied alterity constituted by various mediating processes. This experimental study therefore disorients and reconfigures the relationships between, and location and materiality of, the medium, the mediated content or ‘information,’ and the act of perceiving – as the event of parallactic perception itself constitutes the image. Thus the image as thing is displaced by the image as process, while the external or ‘technical’ frame is replaced with an internalized sense of difference. Premised on the already attenuated status of the image, and consequent emphasis on embodied modes of perception – a central issue within new media theories of the digital (wherein transient, ‘formless’ data is understood to require a form-giving subject) - my research incorporates art and media theory and aesthetics, philosophies of perception, and literary interpretations of altered states. With a background in art-making and commitment to linguistic and poetic experimentation, my methodology, however, is most fundamentally grounded in the reflexive use of language – as a ‘mind-altering’ medium itself capable of generating alterity, providing a means to think concepts differently.
Anastasia received her B.F.A in Fine Art Media from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. Her film and video work focused primarily on narrative structure, deconstruction and re-contextualization of filmic conventions, and reflexivity. She became interested in systems of perceived or accepted information, peripheral scientific theories, and diagrams and illustrations in relation to fallacy, corruption, and arbitrariness within the construction of knowledge. She is currently in her first year of the Ph.D. program and is concentrating on the philosophical and metaphysical undercurrents of narrativity and the relatedness to systems of fact and knowingness. She hopes to continue making work balancing on the crux of theory and practice.
As an English Ph.D. candidate with an emphasis in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies, Klotz has embarked on a dissertation project that traces how nineteenth-century Americans depicted, understood, and engaged Native American literacies. She examines texts by James Fenimore Cooper, Catharine Sedgwick, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Apess, Zitkala-Ša and others in addition to didactic texts and pedagogical strategies at work at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. She argues that literacy became one of the primary criteria for determining who qualified for representation (in both the political and literary sense) during the period when policies of removal and assimilation depleted the sovereignty of Native American peoples.
The question of Indian/White relations often hinged on whether Native Americans and European Americans could inhabit the same national identity and geographical space. Proponents of removal used the fact that indigenous Americans did not always communicate, historicize, or write in ways that were fully legible as literate to insist that Native/white coexistence was impossible. But even as Andrew Jackson and his supporters used literacy to disenfranchise Native Americans and further colonize their land, many nineteenth-century writers resisted these policies by contextualizing, historicizing and generating new literacies to support the sovereignty of indigenous groups. To better understand the context of Indian Removal and assimilationist policies between 1820 and 1920, Klotz's dissertation constructs an account of nineteenth-century literacy practices and their political impacts.
My dissertation aims to make progress in understanding what it is to be an embodied rational agent. I argue that human agency consists not just in our rational capacities for thought and understanding, but also in non-rational capacities, like our physical ability to put one foot in front of the other and walk. I develop the further idea that we can better understand the nature of practical reason itself by reflecting on the way it depends on non-rational aspects of human agency.
Most theories of morphosyntax in use by linguists today make some use of the notion of a feature, a way of encoding the various properties that a word possesses. Using features is a way of formalizing relationships between different forms of one word as well as identifying commonalities between different words. Although the necessity of features in syntactic theory is more or less uncontroversial, there is far less consensus on exactly how features are represented and manipulated in the grammar and how those abstract representations correspond to the realizations of the features that we can see in the words of a given language. My dissertation will address these issues by investigating features in Estonian and Icelandic nominals. The dissertation addresses two domains: nominal phrase internal agreement (or concord), and the structure of partitives and pseudopartitives: constructions like 'a bag of flour' or 'some of the children'. I argue in my dissertation that concord must be distinguished from at least one other form of agreement: subject-verb agreement. I propose a new model for concord within nominals, using partitive structures as a way to shed light on aspects of the phenomenon that simpler nominal structures cannot illuminate. The dissertation thus provides a novel analysis of concord as well as, to my knowledge, the first generative syntactic analyses of partitives in both Estonian and Icelandic.
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Spain, the Bourbon monarchy lost the ability to function as an absolutist regime and was forced into uneasy accommodation with the emerging ideology of liberal democracy. My dissertation examines the role of political culture in facilitating this shift. Seville and surrounding towns serve as a case study uncovering how political culture framed practical discussions on the nature of government in this period as a dialogue between local and national elites. Central to these debates were the importance of longstanding traditions and local autonomy, which became challenges to the consolidation of a heavily centralized liberal democratic state.
I argue that widespread support for traditional practices and alternative forms of local governance should not be seen to have signaled a wholesale rejection of state-building efforts or the positive reception of liberal democracy at the local level, but rather were representative of a desire on the part of local actors to intervene in events taking place at the national level. These interactions constituted an effort by participants to negotiate the terms of political change in a manner that historians often overlook, but which is key to understanding the practice of politics in Spain throughout much of the modern period.
My home of thirteen years sits in a historically, African American neighborhood of Oakland, California that is partially responsible for making “Oakland” synonymous in the public imaginary with “violence.” This neighborhood is also rapidly gentrifying. Of the five homicides on my block since my arrival, only one of the victims was white—a twenty-seven-year-old man killed during a botched robbery of his marijuana grow. All of the other victims and perpetrators were black. I analyze the details of this murder to another murdered neighbor—that of an eighteen year-old African American man killed by a rival crack dealer. These two murders offer a framework for interrogating the violence and social suffering of my community through a moment of rapid change within the history of racism that creates a uniquely, American experience. Furthermore, I interrogate what it means to do ethnographic, participant-observation research--with its ideas of the convergence of assimilation and distancing--when there is no distinction between the field and home and when spectacular violence creates the stakes.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, knowledge of the Americas proliferated as printed materials circulated around the Atlantic. With focus on a selection of texts and translations related to Louisiana, my dissertation links New World settlement to the emergence of “the wetlands” as a category of nature and culture. My map for this project centers on New Orleans, a city whose strategic geographic situation has historically overshadowed its impracticable, swampy site. Looking back, my research is guided by the event of Hurricane Katrina, and I argue for the long-term place of wetlands landscapes in understanding the racial and economic divide made apparent in the flood that followed the storm. For New Orleans, the hurricane did not cause environmental and social crisis as much as it revealed its preconditions, and the United States, through the lens of a local catastrophe, saw its history come into a sharper global focus. Though Literature and American Studies scholars have responded with care to each of these crises, less has been said about them as products of the same postcolonial history. By returning to the colonial era, my account recognizes the enduring entanglement of environmental and social concerns; and, by embedding the post-Katrina present within the life of the wetlands (marked by periodic returns to mud and water), I read it not as a rupture of the U.S. national narrative but, instead, as a moment continuous with a broader, hemispheric history of the Americas.
My dissertation explores how residents of an industrial community in Ecuador use disputes over their health to interpret the meaning of their citizenship. For more than three decades Ecuador's National Petroleum Refinery has spewed toxic effluence into the communities surrounding it, exposing residents to contamination through their air, water, and food.
While the state has denied a link between the refinery and local health problems a recent constitutional project proposed a "new" citizenship oriented around concerns of the public health, wellbeing and quality of life that gave community members hope for systematic change. This dissertation will trace how community members attempt to use this alternative conceptualization of citizenship, legal and scientific strategies, and everyday spectacles to push for a livable environment and to make contamination and its health effects "visible" to the national public.
Jeremiah Wishon's research explores Soviet cultural diplomacy with India from 1948-1968, focusing most heavily on the tenure of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. He seeks to identify the nature, motive, and extent of Soviet efforts to produce favorable public relations in India, the nation most central to Khrushchev's so-called "peace offensive" strategy toward the Third World during the Cold War. His work outlines Soviet goals in the subcontinent, how Bolshevik ideology drove the phenomenon of cultural exchange, the manner in which and mechanisms through which Soviet institutions and individuals participated in Indo-Soviet public relation efforts, and the ways in which the Khrushchev period followed and broke with policies and developments begun under the Stalinist leadership. Jeremiah is also interested in the impact that Soviet uses of "soft power" in India had on the Soviet Union's own domestic system, as their policies necessitated new infrastructure, specialists, and tourist services, while the populace simultaneously came into contact with ideas, cultural products, consumer goods, and people from the subcontinent.
Existing studies by film and cultural historians demonstrate how sex experienced a major transformation in the U.S. and West Europe in recent decades. Previously confined to the private sphere, sex found new forms of articulation in public visual culture in the 1960s and 70s, primarily in cinema. But while these accounts offer useful institutional, legislative, and cultural accounts of the new sexualization of the public sphere, there has been insufficient attention paid to the theoretical significance of this development. My dissertation, "In the Realm of the Sexes: The Political Theory of Sex on Screen," explores how sexual difference, sexual relationality, and the look itself emerge, in post-'60s cinema, as properly political figures that also shape new cinematic languages. Focusing primarily on the U.S. and France—two self-appointed avatars of modern liberal democracy—I argue that the shift of the location of sex from private to public reveals a number of impasses or paradoxes constitutive of liberalism, and thus of Western political "modernity."